World Tour Reporting from around the globe

Israel defends weapons sale to South Sudan

International | Human rights activists call the arms deals war crimes
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 8/15/17, 12:53 pm

Israel’s government has said it committed no criminal offense after human rights activists accused the country of war crimes for selling weapons to South Sudan.

A group of 54 Israeli activists filed a petition in May with the High Court of Justice seeking a criminal investigation into Israel’s exporting of weapons to South Sudan. The petition stated Israel transferred local Galil ACE rifles to South Sudanese government militias. The petitioners said the militias used the weapons against members of South Sudan’s Nuer tribe.

Israel’s head of criminal investigations, Rachel Matar, said in a statement that the state has called for the petition to be dismissed. “No evidence has been found of any defect in the judgment of the relevant parties,” Matar wrote. She added that such an offense would require “awareness and even the aim of assisting the primary offender.”

South Sudan’s ongoing civil war began in 2013 when fighting broke out between troops loyal to President Salva Kiir, who is from the Dinka ethnic group, and former vice president Riek Machar, who is Nuer. The warring factions have both faced accusations of war crimes and abuse.

The UN Security Council issued a report in 2015 on the South Sudanese conflict and said photographs showed the country’s soldiers with Galil ACE rifles produced in Israel. Moshe Ya’alon, Israel’s defense minister at the time, failed to respond to the allegations. In their initial petition, the Israeli activists asked if it “sounds reasonable that the president of a country would place a ‘private order’ of rifles for his private militia.” In 2013, Israel’s weapon sales increased to $223 million from about $71 million in 2009.

The European Union placed an arms embargo on South Sudan, and the United States imposed sanctions on some top security officials from both factions of the conflict. The UN Security Council in December rejected a U.S. resolution to impose an arms embargo on South Sudan.

“Embargoes have not stopped Israel before in other conflicts,” said Ebrahim Deen, an analyst with the Afro–Middle East Center in South Africa. “It’s likely that this will continue and the weapons will still be used in the conflict.”

Associated Press/Photo by Hasan Sarbakhshian Associated Press/Photo by Hasan Sarbakhshian Iranian men raise sticks as a sign they are ready to fight blasphemy after a religious ceremony in 2006.

Report: Blasphemy statutes hamper international law

Some 71 countries in the world, including Iran and Canada, have blasphemy laws that deviate from at least one internationally recognized human rights principle, according to a report by the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF). The report examined the countries’ blasphemy laws and ranked them based on the severity of their penalties, the vagueness of the law, and freedom of expression, among others.

Iran and Pakistan topped the list as the two countries whose blasphemy laws run the most contrary to international law. They both prescribe the death penalty as the maximum sentence for blasphemy. Malta and Denmark were included in the report but repealed their blasphemy laws before its completion. The report includes countries like Canada, Ireland, and other European nations that rarely invoke blasphemy laws.

USCIRF Chairman Daniel Mark told WORLD the report is intended to show the principle of blasphemy laws is problematic, whether or not they are implemented: “We hope that if we can get all the Western countries that don’t really enforce these laws that they have to repeal them. That would help to create some momentum and pressure for countries where blasphemy laws really are a practical problem to do so as well.” —O.O.

Associated Press/Photo by Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press Associated Press/Photo by Frank Gunn/The Canadian Press Pastor Hyeon-Soo Lim (center) attends church Sunday in Mississauga, Ontario, with his wife (left) and son (right).

Released pastor describes captivity in North Korea

A Canadian pastor told his congregation he experienced “overwhelming loneliness” during his captivity in North Korea as he made his first public appearance since his release on “sick bail” last week. South Korea–born Hyeon-Soo Lim was arrested in January 2015 during a regular mission trip to North Korea. The country sentenced him in December 2015 for crimes against the state.

The 62-year-old pastor told the congregation at the Light Presbyterian Church in Ontario that he was forced to dig holes in frozen ground during the winter and also had to break apart coal inside a facility. He was hospitalized four times during his detention. Lim said he read the Bible in English and Korean five times and worshipped alone on 130 Sundays. “While I was laboring, I prayed without ceasing,” he said. He thanked the church community for its prayers and the Canadian and Swedish governments for securing his release. —O.O.

Cambodian residents defend U.S. charity

Cambodian residents in the town of Svay Pak insisted a U.S.-based charity that works against sex trafficking has helped their community after the prime minister accused the group of tarnishing the country’s image.

CNN broadcast a July 25 report on three girls rescued from sex trafficking by Agape International Missions (AIM), a U.S. ministry founded by Dan Brewster in 1988. The broadcast was a follow-up to a 2013 documentary CNN published on the nonprofit, non-governmental organization and the girls, whose mothers had sold them in Svay Pak.

Cambodia’s Prime Minister Hun Sen called the report “a serious insult against Cambodian women” and threatened to shut down the mission. Teang Chin, a laborer who moved to the town in 1982, told Cambodia Daily Svay Pak’s streets used to be teeming with sex for sale until AIM showed up in the mid-2000s. “The NGO played a very important role in shutting the prostitution down,” he said. The Christian nonprofit group focused on fighting child sex slavery in 2005 and says it has helped to rescue more than 700 people with the aid of local police. —O.O.

Kenya returns to normality after election

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta called for peaceful demonstrations following a week of elections and violent protests across the country. Kenyatta said the government would not allow any more loss of life or property. Kenya’s opposition leader Raila Odinga has continued to dispute the election results after losing to Kenyatta. He called on his supporters to skip work Monday and has promised to announce his “next step.” Violent protests erupted across opposition strongholds after Odinga made allegations that the election system had been hacked. Kenya’s National Commission on Human Rights on Saturday said some 24 people have been shot dead during protests since Election Day on Aug. 8. —O.O.

Former al-Shabaab leader surrenders in Somalia

Mukhtar Robow, a one-time deputy leader of Somalia-based al-Shabaab, surrendered Sunday to Somali authorities in the capital city of Mogadishu. Robow had fallen out with al-Shabaab leaders in a sign of an ongoing internal rift in the Islamic terror group. He is the highest-ranking official to quit the group. The Trump administration in June pulled back a $5 million bounty on Robow as negotiations for his surrender continued. Robow has traveled to Afghanistan and previously served as al-Shabaab’s spiritual leader. —O.O.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.

Read more from this writer


You must be a WORLD Member and logged in to the website to comment.
  • Cyborg3's picture
    Posted: Tue, 08/15/2017 03:28 pm

    Great Job! Thanks for your reports that are very informative - the news we don't see in the media!